An in-store greenhouse that allows retailers to harvest tomatoes every week is receiving favorable shopper reaction.
In late March, the formal opening of a Price Chopper supermarkets’ Market Bistro concept store in Latham, N.Y., included a greenhouse from Florence, Vt.-based Vermont Hydroponic Produce LLC growing cherry tomatoes.
The miniature enclosed glass greenhouse allows weekly harvesting of 18 cherry tomato plants in a 12-foot long by 12-foot high display that are restocked with new plants every quarter, said Jeff Jones, Vermont Hydroponic’s general manager.
In 2013, shoppers enjoyed interacting with a prototype unit in a South Burlington, Vt., store of the Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper, Jones said.
During eight months of the pilot project, some shoppers “adopted” the plants and would hurry to the unit to see how the plants were faring and would provide Vermont Hydroponic progress reports, he said.
“They look forward to going back into the store and visiting the plants and actually seeing how they grow,” Jones said. “It’s almost like their own little gardens.
“They are coming in and seeing the plants producing the fruit and showing their kids that produce doesn’t come from packages. So many city kids don’t understand produce and think it’s the same as grocery cans. When they see the plants producing cherry tomatoes, it gives them a nice little link back to how it’s grown.”
During the fall, Vermont Hydroponic plans to grow beefsteak tomatoes and then consider growing other items including bell peppers, cucumbers and strawberries, he said.
The greenhouse operates on a 12-hour on/12-hour off plant feeding system which includes a 100-gallon nutrient reservoir, a computerized dosing system and an automatic retractable shade system.
In May, Vermont Hydroponic plans to start a web cam to show people the plants’ production.
Vermont Hydroponic ships tomatoes to retailers throughout the Northeast, New England and Canada from two greenhouses.